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Custom History

June 14, 2015

Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury part I

 

THE DICK PAGE STORIES

 

One of my all time favorite custom cars is the Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury convertible. A car Jimmy built for himself as a daily drive in 1946. Jimmy drove his Mercury all over the place. Together with his good friend Doane Spencer, who drove his well known 1932 Ford Roadster, with modified DuVall windshield, Jimmy had done the body work on. These two cars must have turn many heads while driving together.



Jimmy Summers was a very talented body man. Besides that he had a great eye for flowing lines, and details as well; a rare combination. Jimmy did most of his custom work in the 1940’s, before the major magazines where around. Because of that, most of his cars were never “properly” published in the magazines back then. Dan Post did use photos of some of his cars, including this 1940 Mercury in his Californian Custom Cars, and his Blue book of Custom Restyling books. But we can clearly state that Jimmy never got the recognition he deserved back then.


CCC_Jimmy_Summers_Merc_Red_01This photo from the Summers family albums was taken in 1946, with Jimmy and his first wife standing in front of the Mercury. This great color photo shows the deep maroon color, and tan Carson Padded Top. It also shows that Jimmy used only white wall tires on the front. They were still rare, shortly after WWII. Hubcaps on this first version of the car are baby moons with trim rings.

 



Fortunately for us, Summer’s amazing simple, and stylish 1940 Mercury is still among us. The car was believed to have disappear in South America, and only very few knew it still existed. The Rodder’s Journal did a one page article on the “discovery” of the car in an unknown US location with photos and text by Donn Lowe. Don was, at the time, working on the Harry Bradley designed 1940 Mercury “Afterglow”, that was inspired by Jimmy’s Mercury. Don had done a lot of research on Jimmy’s Merc, got in contact with his family, which ultimately led him to find out the car was still around. And best of all, not even too far from his Oregon home. Now we all know the car is in the safe hands of Dick Page.

Another great thing is that there are quite a few photos of the car, when it was first built – painted maroon, then later in metallic green. Some have been shown before in some publications, others have rarely been published, but will be shown here – and in the next two articles based around Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury.


This series of articles is created together with the car owner Dick Page.
Dick Page was good fiends with the second owner of the car Tex Roberts. And Dick is sharing some of his amazing stories Tex shared with him about the car.



The Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury tales.

as told by Dick Page

USAF Col. J, F. “Tex” Roberts bought the 40 mercury from Jimmy Summers in 1950. Many years later Tex retired to Lakewood Washington bringing the famous Mercury with him, and that’s where I first met him.
The year was 1964, he walked into my custom body & paint shop and proceeded to tell me what I was doing wrong…! I liked him right away. Some will say he was a loud mouth bragger… and that’s true. He would denied it of course saying: “It ain’t bragg’n if it’s fact”. There were a lot of facts in his tool box.


CCC_Jimmy_Summers_Merc_Tex_01Tex Roberts with the Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury somewhere in South America. This photo shows the Lyon aftermarket hubcaps on wide white wall tires all around. By now the car has been repainted 1947 Buick Green.

 




Ever heard of a panhard rod to control side sway? They used to be called Roberts bars, after Tex developed them for early sprint cars. Tex was the smartest man I ever met, and the biggest character by far… He built the fastest drag race and stockcar motors in the area, and made sure everybody with ears knew it. He knew everybody, He called Stu Hilborne at home, and had him dig out the wood patterns from under a bench, and cast me a set of streetable injectors for my Ardun…see what I mean?
The first time I went to Tex’s home shop at the Lakewood country club, sitting next to a white primerd XK 120 Jag roadster (which I could care less about) I was shocked to find the Jimmy Summers, immediately recognizable, 1940 Mercury convertible, parked outside. Covered by a canvas tarp that was past its prime. Tex was just as shocked to find, that a twenty-two year old from Tacoma knew of the car, and some of its history.


CCC_Jimmy_Summers_Merc_Tex_02Another photo taken at the same location shows the wonderful shaped rear of the Mercury. All four fenders were raised when the body was dropped over the frame. Especially the way Jimmy remounted the rear fenders to follow the belt-line and trunk shows what a gifted craftsman and designer Jimmy was.

 




The car had been changed some over the years. The headlights were frenched, the door handles removed, and all four fenders where molded to the body. Tex re-upholstered the car in black & white (himself) but that handmade grill was a dead giveaway. It was (’41 GM) ruby maroon for the second time. I was unaware that it had been (’47 Buick) Sherwood green when Tex bought it from Jimmy.
After buying the car, the USAF shipped it around the world, which led to rumors that the car was lost in So. America.
Tex told me that while in south America, he encountered a washed out section of dirt ‘road’.
He was able to obtain help from local men, who cut down small trees, made polls, and carried the car over the breach….wow!


CCC_Jimmy_Summers_Merc_Tex_03Another rear angle view shows the perfect fit and finish of this Mercury. Also interesting, is to see the car with the custom made side windows/frames in the up position.

 




I think the later modifications on the car were done by Jimmy and Tex in late ’53, after he returned to California. Tex’s wife, who was a wonderful and supportive lady, told me of spending many hours at Jimmy’s shop, while Tex and Jimmy worked on the car, sometimes she would sit outside and knit baby clothes.

It always bothered me that this wonderful and historic car was sitting under a tarp, so when I was having a shop building put up at my home, and when it began to snow I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
I called my friend Sonny Barrett, and asked him to meet me at Tex’s with his race car trailer, and we we told Tex the Merc was coming in from the cold! We placed the car in the center of the slab, and the shop was built around it.
I did some repairs on it where the tarp pitted the trunk lid. Tex installed a Columbia two speed rear end, and we did some other minor work. When Tex wanted me to trim away the lower edge of the body to install chrome side pipes from a van, I refused to alter the car and Tex took it home. We remained good friends. Tex was having some health problems, and I was going to his shop and doing some rough-out for his finish work on port & polish heads.
Tex stripped the car to bare metal avoiding the few leaded areas. He added the hooded mount on the trunk for his SCTA club plaque (the road runners I think). He also added the quad exhaust pipes in the rear pan.

CCC_Jimmy_Summers_Merc_Tex_05This photo was probably taken from the garage roof top and gives a nice view on the plain interior. It also shows the custom made dash inserts. The dash panels were made from light oak wood to go with the color of the rest of the interior.

 




Then …Tex died…. Not wanting to act like a vulture, I waited awhile before asking to buy the Merc. When I went to visit his family the car was gone! sold!!
I was crushed. It took me years to find it. The owner was Jerry Jacobs in nearby Puyallup Wa. probably the nicest man on the planet. I traded a ’32 ford tub project (I had 31k in) straight across car for car. Jerry wanted me to work on the ’32, but I had major back problems off and on for ten years. (I had back surgery in 2010)
Jerry moved to Arizona, and I lost track of him for a few years. He came to see me in 2010, and wanted to undo the trade and take the Merc back with him to Arizona.
He wanted to have a Chevy motor./auto trans. installed, and a bright red paint job to make a nice cruzer for him and his wife to enjoy… I wanted to help him get a car to enjoy. I knew my good friend Larry Andren was taking his ’40 Ford to hot august nights the next day to sell.
I suggested Jerry should check out the ’40, and if he liked it, I would buy it for him and take back the ’32 tub project.
Thats what we did… Later Larry bought the ’32 from me.
Jerry Jacobs later sent me wonderful old 1947 to ’53 vintage 8×10 photos of the car, including one with my friend Tex. Those all came with the Mercury when he bought it after Tex had passed away. Some of these can be seen in this article, other will follow in part two which will go more about the car and how it was built.

Go to part two of the Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury.
Go to part three of the Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury.

 




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About the Author

Rik Hoving

Rik is the CCC editor in chief. As a custom car historian he is researching custom car history for many years. In 2004 he started the Custom Car Photo Archive that has become a place of joy for many custom car enthousiasts. Here at CCC Rik will bring you inspiring articles on the history of custom cars and builders. Like a true photo detective he will show us what’s going on in all those amazing photos. He will write stories about everything you want to know in the realm of customizing. In daily life Rik is a Graphic Designer. He is married to the CCC webmaster and the father of a 10 year old son (they are both very happy with his excellent cooking skills)






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2 Comments


  1. School history was never like this! I LOVE these stories ..gives real life the the cars we all love!

    -Dave


  2. That car is one of the landmarks. It is what a classic literally is.

    So good to see without the roof, something extremely rare with customs. Better yet, it still looks great roofless, obviously not a half arsed job.

    Much to study and learn.



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